Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Fourth Doctor adventure The Creature from the Pit...
'Creature from the Pit' is odd. I enjoyed watching it but there are moments when the BBC budgets & borderline silliness make it a bit awkward. In particular we have the Erato problem, but more on that later.
The Doctor & Romana II land on Chloris, a planet where metal is scarce; the Lady Adrasta rules with the aid of wolf weeds & there is a mysterious creature in a pit with whom it will turn out Lady Adrasta has previous. The Doctor gets dragged into things, as is his wont & Chloris will never be the same again.
It just about works because all the actors involved treat it with the requisite levels of seriousness. Even the chaps playing the Monty Pythonesque comic relief bandits don't go over the top. They're clearly escapees from a totally different television series but their presence, whilst mildly irritating isn't crippling.
Credit to Tom Baker who is often criticised for 'silliness' but who manages to play his scenes with Erato as if he were dealing with a real alien creature rather than a gigantic glowing green testicle monster with an unfortunately phallic protuberance made out of weather balloons, wood & green paint. There's no way of getting around the fact that Erato is one of the series least impressive creations, at least when interacting with the cast. Nothing the director or cast does can distract from its glowing green bollocky nature I'm afraid.
Erato & the comedy bandits are the stories negatives, alongside the sudden switch of the Huntsman (David Telfer) from bad guy to good guy. This is the man in charge of the wolf weeds, which are rolling balls of vegetation used to hunt & capture Adastra's enemies. A man who we can assume has been responsible for one or two moments of "unpleasantness" in his time but with whom the Doctor seems happy to treat at the end. It just feels a little wrong.
However there are many positives include a lovely script featuring two of my favourite Doctor Who lines ever (although the final episode features large amounts of technobabble & a chunk of padding).
There's a wonderfully judged performance from Geoffrey Bayldon as the astrologer Organon, which would be worth buying the DVD for alone.
Myra Frances makes Lady Adastra a villainess with a crisp, cold bite & Eileen Way gives her excellent support as her right-hand woman Karela. Frances is particularly good as Adrasta starts to unravel a bit as her plans start to fall apart & her interactions with K9 are priceless.
Eileen Way appeared in the first Doctor Who story ever as 'Old Mother'. Here she is sixteen years later having hardly appeared to age. It's uncanny, but I digress.
Lalla Ward doesn't get a great deal to do in this story but does what she needs to do well, although she does seem to have come dressed for a wedding. That's not to say she doesn't look very fetching. I will stop there. This is a Doctor Who article, not a Lalla Ward Fan Site & I'm in danger of getting carried away.
In the end this is an enjoyable enough story that teeters on the brink of silliness but just about stays on the right side of it helped mainly by a cast that doesn't let the ridiculousness of what they're doing affect their performance. There are far worse stories in Doctor Who but not many worse looking monsters.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.